The Masons of Amicable Lodge have tattoos curling out from under their button-down shirts. They wear giant rings and waist aprons that look like oversize satin envelopes. They wear ties and medals and amulets. They carry staffs. Each month, they gather to practice secret rituals in Porter Square.
Once, they played in Boston bands like Slapshot, Crash and Burn, Sam Black Church, Victory at Sea, the Men, and Cradle to the Grave. Back then, none of them would have dreamed of joining the Masons. Masonry — a fraternal society that dates back to the 1700s — has not, heretofore, been associated with rock and roll.
But people get older and settle down. They get married. They have kids. They get jobs. They join the Masons.
In a strange way, this seems like a logical next step for veterans of the Boston rock scene. "A lot of people become involved in music because they're looking for something higher — or to get girls, which is something higher," says Ian Adams, Mason, film grip, occasional Phoenix illustrator, and member emeritus of 8 Ball Shifter and Rock City Crimewave. "It's looking for that thing that's bigger than you — the first time you hear the Ramones on the radio, it's that spiritual thing."
Masonry fills that need, Adams says. "The idea that you're doing something that other people have done in the past [allows] you to step out of time," he explains. "We're born, get old, and die, but the rituals remain the same. It's a time machine. It's a connection to eternity."
>> PHOTO SLIDESHOW: The Masons of Amicable Lodge <<
TILED BEAVERS AND MASONIC COASTERS
Along with other fraternal organizations — the Knights of Columbus, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Elks, the Lions, the Rotarians, Kiwanis — the Masons had their heyday in the scotch-soaked early 1960s, when men brought home the bacon and women stayed home with the kids. Fred Flintstone, a man of his time, belonged to the Loyal Order of the Water Buffaloes. After a hard day at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company, Flintstone would slide down the bronto crane, don a silly hat, and drink beer with his brethren before returning home to Wilma and Pebbles.
Freemasonry, the first and largest of these secret societies, began with medieval stonemasons' guilds who adopted esoteric rites, rituals, and degrees of initiation, collectively known as the Craft. Today, Masons are avowedly non-denominational, though membership requires belief in a Supreme Being.
Masonry came to America with the colonists. Boston is home to the nation's oldest Masonic Grand Lodge. It sits right on the Common — that building with the tiled beavers on the side. Inside are grand, lushly appointed meeting halls. In rooms smelling vaguely of stale cigar smoke, lockers made of glass and carved wood hold funny hats and cloaks. A tiled-floored, dimly-lit chamber is populated by marble figurines in cubby holes. The Masonic conference room is wallpapered in a gold square-and-compass pattern; the conference table is dotted with Masonic coasters.